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Ten Questions with Phillips, Craig & Dean

Songs4Worship -- For 10 successful years, the band Phillips, Craig & Dean has been writing and performing unforgettable songs like "Crucified With Christ" and "Mercy Came Running," songs that speak to the human condition and to the radical love of God for His creation. But their hit songs have only hinted at the deeper calling they've experienced as pastors of worship who stand before congregations week after week. recently caught up with Phillip, Craig, & Dean's Shawn Craig.

When and how did you get started in worship ministry?

I came from the old school. The worship leader was the "song leader." He would get up and say, "Turn in your hymnals to page 29." The songs we sang were not the classic worshipful hymns like "Crown Him with Many Crowns." They were largely songs about the Christian life and the hope of Heaven. Good songs, but not much worship took place. Sometime in the mid-'80s I saw Phil Driscoll lead the song "I Exalt Thee." I had never seen people worship so passionately. I got it! I saw the essence of worship should be to worship God because He's God. Period. The motive for leading worship became focused more on God and less on self.

What has been the greatest challenge you've faced in ministry?

The greatest challenge was going through a church split. About 15 years ago, the church I am a part of went through a major paradigm shift in worship and away from legalism. It was by far the most difficult season of ministry for me. Friends left. People I trusted walked away.

What has been the most profound lesson you've learned about worship over the past few years?

Let me answer that question with reference to leading in worship. Joseph Garlington said something like, "Leading people in worship is like leading sheep. Don't 'drive' them. Lead them." Worship leading is not coercive. It is graceful and interactive with the Holy Spirit.

What is the most profound lesson you've learned about life over the past few years?

Life is one big lesson in learning to let go. As an infant, we have to let go of the security of our mother's womb. As a child, we learn to let go of mother's breast. As we grow, we learn to let go of selfishness. As an adult, we have to let go of childishness. As a parent, the cycle begins again. We have to let go of our baby as they get on the school bus. Again, as they enter adolescence, and still again when they marry. As an aging adult, we have to let go of our youth. In death, we have to let go of life. only to realize that we are letting go to grab hold of the real thing. life eternal!

What is the most common misunderstanding about worship you see in your own congregation and how have you tried to reshape it?

Worship is not all about you or me. It's about Him. Many come to worship saying, "I don't feel like it" or "It's not my nature to respond the way you are prompting me." I want to say, "It's not about what you like; it's about what God likes. God has given us scriptural foundation for the kind of worship and the patterns of praise that He likes." Worship is about Him.

This kind of position makes my role as worship leader a subversive one. I'm working against human nature and the selfishness in all of us (myself included!). How do we attempt to change this mindset? Scriptural application along with demonstration by example. I must do what I am asking them to do. Do I ask for humble obedience? Then I must live that in front of them.

What does 'worship lifestyle' mean to you?

This means different things to different people. For me, it's best summed up in the little book written by Brother Lawrence. He called it 'practicing the Presence.' The essence of this idea is that we acknowledge God's presence daily, then hourly until at some point in our lifetime it becomes like breathing.

This is kind of the desert island question. What are the five essentials you could not do without in worship ministry?

Scripture, prayer, the Holy Spirit enabling, loving people, and lastly and the least, music ability.

How do you explain the powerful connection between music and worship expression?

Music is an expression that combines the mind, will, and emotions. Responding to God with the will does not involve the whole self. Music helps us engage the emotions and the mind as well as the will.

What are the complicating factors in keeping worship as theologically grounded as experiential and emotional?

I don't want to throw stones at the media and our culture, but this milieu does promote a self-seeking, mega-superstore, "what's in it for me" mentality. There is such a strong pull toward entertainment that it becomes increasingly challenging to root our worship and praise in Biblical forms rather than simply cultural forms.

What compels you to write new songs for worship?

Revelation. New revelation should bring fresh response. I'm not talking about new doctrines. I'm talking about revelation of who God is. This kind of revealing continues through our lifetime and will continue through eternity. I'm convinced this will be the joy of eternity -- discovering and knowing God.

What makes a song or any act for that matter worshipful?

Does it glorify God? In other words, what's the object, the motive?

What is the most atrocious or embarrassing or confusing thing that has ever happened during a time of worship in which you're leading?

I started to lead a song one time and had a brain freeze. There were two songs that had similar words. I couldn't get the other melody out of my head. I finally gave up after a few lines and said, "Let's try something else!" Learning not to take yourself too seriously in such situations is an important step.

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